SMEs expand their employee benefits offering

08 Feb 2021
Man working on a laptop at home, with grey dog resting on his arm

With the coronavirus outbreak changing the way many employees do their jobs, firms of of all sizes have been looking at their employee benefits offering to see if it still matches what their workers want and need.

Smaller firms in particular have introduced new benefits over the past year, according to new research.

Financial wellbeing provider Drewberry found that almost half (47.4%) of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK introduced employee benefits in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

But do those benefits match up with what workers actually want?

Among the businesses that started offering new or additional benefits to their staff, the most common were flexible working from home policies (39.7%) and flexible working hours (29.4%).

There was also a significant increase in insurance offerings, with 19% adopting life insurance/death in service insurance and 16.9% offering group private health insurance.

As for the benefits that employees want from their employer, at the top of the list was flexible hours. Just over half (50.8%) of workers wanted their employer to introduce flexible working hours -- something that is free to introduce.

Employees also want to be offered private health insurance (35.3%), work from home options (33.6%), life insurance (33%) and critical illness insurance (30.7%).

When asked more generally about the types of benefits they wanted, 51.1% of employees said those that helped manage their health and wellbeing.

"It appears those businesses which have introduced employee benefits are on the right track," Drewberry said.

Another way that employers can support their homeworking employees is to provide money towards home office equipment.

While almost half (49.7%) of workers said they were either more productive or far more productive at home, almost one in four cited inferior computer/office equipment as one of their main challenges.

"If we're going to embrace any form of home working going forward -- and with just 13.5% of workers working from home wanting to go back to the office full-time, this seems likely -- properly equipping workers is essential," Drewberry argued.

The survey findings also show that many companies need to find a better way of communicating with their remote working employees:

  • 35.9% of workers said that a lack of internal communication made them unhappy at work
  • 40.3% said a lack of general support from managers/coworkers caused tension at work
  • For those who thought their mental health had worsened since working from home during lockdown, 69.7% said it was due to a lack of social interaction, 63.6% put it down to feeling isolated and 24.1% cited lack of support from their manager
  • When listing challenges of working from home, 37.1% said they found a lack of connection to colleagues/their employer challenging, while 33.9% said communicating with colleagues was more difficult

Lastly, it's worth noting that just over half of small and medium-sized businesses did not introduce any new employee benefits last year.

At a time when rival firms are increasingly offering new or better benefits, employers should consider their options in this area to avoid falling behind.